Temples of the Cross Group
This section examines the Temples of the Cross Group as well as Temple 14. It also includes a section on vernacular and contemporary Maya architecture because monumental architectural forms were clearly adopted and adapted from domestic ones. In this introduction, I briefly outline the history of the Cross Group and provide an overview of its symbolism. The sections dealing with specific buildings provide links to additional images, texts, translations, and discussions of sculptural imagery.
History and Archaeology
Unlike our detailed knowledge of the archaeology of the Temple of Inscriptions and Palace complex, the history of the Cross Group still lies buried beneath the edifices constructed by K'ihnich Kan B'ahlam sometime in the 680s. From inscriptions, we know these shrines were first ritually used in AD 690 and finally dedicated in AD 692 in anticipation of the period-ending on 8 Ajaw 8 Wo' (March 692). However, until more extensive excavations occur we must reconstruct the architectural history of the Temples of the Cross Group from textual clues and a smattering of recent archaeological data. One of the first places to look for the early history of the Cross Group is in the texts of the Temple of Inscriptions, which records the major period ending rites performed by K'ihnich Janaab' Pakal and other earlier rulers. These ceremonies happened every twenty years and are comparable to our celebration of the start of a new decade-though with a great deal more religious importance.
Where did these period-ending ceremonies described in the Temple of Inscriptions occur? Clearly, they were not performed at the Temple of Inscriptions itself or the present Temples of the Cross Group; these structures had yet to be built. However, the Middle Panel (N6-N10) of the Temple of Inscription records a passage that appears to locate the Cross Group as the place where these celebrations were held. The relevant phrase reads, chak otoot chak nuk chan waka' chan ut/win ukunil juun ye nal chaahk, or, "the Red House, the Red Skin Sky, the Six Skies is the shrine (lit. oven) of Ju'n Ye Nal Chaahk." The words "Wak Chan" and "ukunil Ju'n Ye Nal Chaahk" are the same terms that name the Temple of the Cross. The position of this passage at the end of the narrative recording the giving events of the 10th, 11th and 12th K'atuns suggests that these rituals occurred at the site where the Temple of the Cross now rests. It would seem that historically the site of the Cross Group had long been devoted to the patron gods.
Archaeological investigation has yet to penetrate the deeper strata of the Cross Group, but the discovery of buried terraces and stylistically earlier pottery during recent excavations by Alfonso Morales (1999) indicates the existence of an earlier architectural phase and collaborates the inscriptional history. Morales describes the relevant finds located in the base of Temple XIV as follows:
In the course of the excavation we encountered a concentration of large incensario fragments and the partial remains of two "cajetas" (the vessels that actually contain the charcoal and incense) were documented and collected. The incensarios identified here differ from others found in association with the Cross Group structures in that the relief is lower and the appliqué elements are shallow by comparison. It is possible that these incensarios represent an earlier developmental stage relative to the incensarios associated with the Cross Group structures.